Breeders' Cup 2005


posted 10/28/2005 by Dave Gamble
other articles by Dave Gamble
One Page Platforms: Xbox

As the stable owner, it is your responsibility to manage the training and race schedule of your horses to ensure that they are adequately prepared for the strenuous life a race horse leads.  As in most sporting endeavors, there is a delicate balance between racing aggressively and racing irresponsibly.  Push your horses too hard, and you will end up with a stable full of injured horses.  Injured horses continue to consume dollars through boarding and training, but cannot bring dollars back via race winnings.  As a stable owner, you have to watch the balance sheet every bit as closely as you watch the race sheets.

If all of that seems too much effort and you'd prefer to just "arrive and drive," you will be more interested in the Quick Race mode.  This allows you to choose a horse from the lineup that you will ride.  The race starts in the starting gate, and as the gates open, you will find yourself astride a galloping beast.  As the rider, you can "steer" the horse to the rail, or stay a little outside to ensure a clear route to pass.  You can encourage your horse to run at the front of the pack, or hang back with the crown in the hopes of preserving strength for a sprint to the finish.  As the race nears the finish line, you can further encourage your horse through the use of a whip.  To improve your chances of winning, you should consider the preferred racing style of your chosen mount, although it is possible to win by simply ignoring all of the subtle strategies and just flogging your horse mercilessly.  Since this is a single race mode, you don't have to worry about the costs in fatigue and injury that would normally be incumbent in such an approach.  This, to me, made the Quick Race mode far less interesting than it could have been.

Also of interest to the "arrive and drive" type of player would be the multiplayer mode.  This mode allows two players to enter into a race and race against each other and the computer-controlled pack of other horses.  Multiplayer mode does not use a split screen, though.  Instead, the camera attempts to show both player's horses until one of the players falls back too far.  At that point the camera stays with the leading player and the computer takes over in driving the lagging horse.  This is far less than optimal as once the lagging player loses controls of his horse, he has no hope of catching up.  This results in essentially requiring both players to use a sprint race strategy since the player that chose the strategy of staying with the pack and making a string finish will almost immediately lag behind, lose control of his horse, and get whipped like a rented mule.  Without the aspect of strategic and tactical planning, the racing becomes pretty boring.  What would probably have worked better for multiplayer would have been Xbox Live support, although given the niche aspect of the game there may have been some challenge involved in getting together enough players to have an interesting race.

Because of these limitations in the quick race and multiplayer modes, Breeders Cup will be satisfying mostly for the players that are interested in the full aspects of horse racing, at least in so far as interactive play goes.  There is one other aspect to horse racing that I have not yet mentioned: betting.  For those that enjoy scanning the past performance of the entrants in any given race, combined with the historical performance of the jockies and the prevailing race conditions in an attempt to determine who will win and place bets accordingly, Breeders Cup offers the opportunity to do so in your own home, albeit with fake money.  Of course, as with anything involving money, there is a fair degree of complexity involved.  You can choose to make simple bets like Win, Place, or Show, or you can expand into somewhat more exotic betting types like the Exacta, Trifecta, or Superfecta.  As the complexity and risk increase, so do the potential winnings.  If all of that isn't confusing enough, you can choose to bet Straight, Boxed, or Wheeled.  When it comes to betting on horse races, there are many ways to choose your poison.

All in all, Breeders Cup gives a nice introduction to the sport of horse racing, but only those willing to truly dive in and concern themselves with the more complex aspects of the game will be satisfied.  Those that just want to climb onto the back of a horse and race will be left wanting more of a challenge.

While it’s likely to appeal only to a relatively small audience, Bethesda Softwork’s new Thoroughbred Horse Racing game is worth a look, as long as you aren’t looking for a good multiplayer head-to-head racer.

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